What are reasonable adjustments, and why and how should you make them in the workplace?

Reasonable adjustments are at the heart of everything that ClearTalents does. Our online digital tool helps employees create a digital inclusion passport that identifies the need for reasonable adjustments and advises employers on making them.

In these FAQs, we explore the reasons for making reasonable adjustments, the benefits of doing so, explore some examples of reasonable adjustments and how employers can implement them to create a more inclusive workplace for everyone.

Multicoloured post-its and highlighter pens. Post-its in the middle read Equality, diversity, inclusion.

1. What are reasonable adjustments?

Understanding them is worth first pointing to the social model of disability. The social model of disability is a way of viewing the world developed by disabled people. As Scope says:

“The model says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical like buildings not having accessible toilets. Or they can be caused by people’s attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain things.”

2. Are reasonable adjustments a legal requirement?

Where someone meets the definition of a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

3. What links reasonable adjustments and The Equality Act 2010?

Reasonable adjustments are the changes an employer makes to remove or reduce a disadvantage related to someone’s disability, as defined under The Equality Act.

Employers must make reasonable adjustments so that workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

4. Why make reasonable adjustments in the workplace?

Employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments, but this is not the only reason to make them. The Equality Act says reasonable adjustments remove elements that place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people.

5. What are the benefits of making reasonable adjustments in the workplace?

Another way to think of reasonable adjustments is that they are a tool to empower everyone in the workplace to be the best they can be. Making reasonable adjustments is part of the toolkit for creating a more inclusive workplace. It removes barriers so people can focus on their work.

Some of the benefits of reasonable adjustments are:

  • Contribute to an inclusive workplace
  • Increased staff retention
  • Reduced sickness absence
  • Higher revenue streams
  • Attract fresh talent

ClearTalents’ client AbilityNet has reduced its sickness absence from 5.5. days per person to 2.3 days in 2022. That’s half the national average per person in the UK.

  • Read more about how to reduce sickness absence in our Free Factsheet
  • Reasonable adjustments can also encourage people back into the workforce, which was a focus of the 2023 spring budget.

6. What adjustments are reasonable?

Reasonable adjustments are specific to a person. They can cover any area of work. It’s not enough for employers to provide disabled people with the same working conditions as non-disabled people. It’s vital employers talk with individuals and don’t make assumptions.

So, what is reasonable?

Reasonable adjustments will vary by individual and situation. Employers should consider making an adjustment if it:

  • Removes or reduces the disadvantage,
  • Is practical to implement,
  • Is affordable,
  • Doesn’t impact the health and safety of others.

Employers don’t have to change the fundamental nature of a role. For example, if the core focus of a position is driving (a lorry driver, say) and the person becomes unable to drive, then it might not be reasonable to change the role if there’s no other role to give.

7. What are some examples of reasonable adjustments?

Given reasonable adjustments are tailored to individuals, they may be diverse and varied, but examples are helpful.

Flexible working: Flexible working, which employers have embraced since the pandemic, can encompass examples of flexible working. A neurodivergent person may find travelling during peak times overwhelming. So, a reasonable adjustment might be to allow a later start time so that they’re travelling outside of office hours.

Fixed desk: Another good example could be a fixed desk for someone disabled. Flexible working has spawned a trend towards hotdesking. However, a disabled person may require fixed equipment such as a screen reader for their computer, an ergonomic keyboard or mouse or a specific type of chair for musculoskeletal problems.

Reducing stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety are common in the workplace. Reasonable adjustments can make a significant impact, and some can be small. For example, someone may feel anxious before a meeting. Ensuring that you provide details of the meeting and any supporting material in advance is another example of a reasonable adjustment.

8. When do you need to make a reasonable adjustment?

Employers need to consider and make reasonable adjustments if an employee is at a significant advantage to people who don’t have a disability because of the following:

  1. A rule, practice or another working arrangement – e.g., the hours your work, your duties or rules about sick leave.
  2. A physical feature of your workplace – e.g., the lighting in your workplace or the bathroom facilities.
  3. Not having extra equipment or help – e.g., computer software, hardware equipment, an ergonomic workstation, or a chair.

Specific examples of physical reasonable adjustments may include changes to the following:

  • steps and stairs
  • passageways and paths
  • entrances and exits
  • internal and external doors
  • toilets
  • signs
  • lighting and ventilation
  • the size of the premises.

9. Who is responsible for reasonable adjustments?

Making reasonable adjustments is an employer’s responsibility.

As an employer, you should have effective procedures to meet the needs of disabled employees. But you may need help understanding your specific requirements.

ClearTalents inclusion passport is a digital tool which can support you with this.

10. Who pays for reasonable adjustments?

Employers are responsible for paying for reasonable adjustments.

Many adjustments are simple and affordable. Some adjustments could be deemed not reasonable because of the cost – for example, installing a life to get employees to a floor of the workplace.

The employer could turn this down but should investigate other reasonable adjustments. For example, ensuring that the employee can remain on the ground floor.

Access to Work is a government scheme designed to help people with a physical or mental health condition or disability to get or stay in work. Someone may be eligible for a grant to help pay for practical support.

This is not a substitute for an employer’s legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments or pay for them.

11. Do reasonable adjustments only apply to disability?

Reasonable adjustments apply specifically to disabled people. However, ClearTalents has designed its digital tool around all nine protected characteristics in The Equality Act.

A truly inclusive workplace is one that adapts to everyone.

Adjustments may seem to be small but have a big impact.

12. Can an employer refuse reasonable adjustments?

A failure to make reasonable adjustments is a form of disability discrimination.

However, an employer can refuse to make adjustments if it would not be reasonable for them to do so.

What is reasonable depends on various factors, such as the size of the employer and the finances available and the complexity of the adjustments requested.

How ClearTalents can support you with reasonable adjustments

ClearTalents provides an end-to-end reasonable adjustment process for organisations. It is easy to implement and increases productivity, retention and staff attendance. Contact us today to find out how we can implement this hassle-free approach and ensure you can support every employee

Our digital tool can support employers in identifying and implementing reasonable adjustments.